Northeast Times

Elected officials aim to keep Kraft plant open

Help is on the way: State Sen. Mike Stack (left) and state Reps. Brendan Boyle (cen­ter) and Kev­in Boyle (not pic­tured) vowed to do everything they could to keep the Kraft plant at Roosevelt Boulevard and By­berry Road open.

State Sen. Mike Stack, state Reps. Kev­in and Brendan Boyle and bakers’ uni­on lead­ers today prom­ised to do everything they can to make sure the half-cen­tury-old former Kraft plant at By­berry and the Boulevard doesn’t close, tak­ing away the smell of bak­ing Or­eos and about 300 uni­on jobs.

Since Wed­nes­day, that’s been the fear, even though a Mondelez In­ter­na­tion­al spokes­wo­man main­tained no de­cision has been made yet to close a plant that opened in 1956 as a Nabisco bakery.

Mondelez, which split off from Kraft late last year, is just be­gin­ning to dis­cuss con­sol­id­a­tion of its man­u­fac­tur­ing with its uni­ons and only look­ing at the “po­ten­tial” of clos­ing the Philly plant, spokes­wo­man Laurie Guzzinati said in a phone in­ter­view this af­ter­noon.

Noth­ing is cer­tain yet, she said.

What’s cer­tain, the elec­ted of­fi­cials said in a news con­fer­ence out­side the plant, is that they don’t want the plant’s ovens to cool, and that they want the state and the city to ne­go­ti­ate with the com­pany to in­duce it to stay in Phil­adelphia.

Guzzinati said Mondelez, whose well-known brands in­clude Or­eos, Ritz crack­ers, Teddy Gra­hams, Cad­bury chocol­ates and Tang,  is con­sid­er­ing ex­pand­ing its bak­ing fa­cil­it­ies in Fair­lawn, N.J., and Rich­mond, Va., but Stack and the Boyle broth­ers said there is plenty of room in North­east Philly, and the com­pany could grow right here.

There are sev­er­al in­dus­tri­al prop­er­ties not far away from the plant, Kev­in Boyle said.

The Boulevard bakery is zoned light in­dus­tri­al, and much of that type of zon­ing in the city is con­cen­trated nearby.

The com­pany could pro­duce more at its Boulevard plant, said John Laz­ar, pres­id­ent of the plant’s baker’s uni­on loc­al. He said only four ovens are be­ing op­er­ated right now, and the plant has eight.

IT STAR­TED WED­NES­DAY

This is all just be­gin­ning, Guzzinati said, stress­ing again that no de­cision has been made. Com­pany ex­ec­ut­ives have told city of­fi­cials that they have no im­me­di­ate plans to leave Phil­adelphia, said Mark Mc­Don­ald, May­or Mi­chael Nut­ter’s spokes­man. He said city of­fi­cials and Mondelez ex­ec­ut­ives in­tend to meet, but no date has been set. Stack and the Boyles said like­wise.

Laz­ar said plant man­ager Rusty Moore on Wed­nes­day told em­ploy­ees the plant’s clos­ing was a strong pos­sib­il­ity. “They told us they want to shore up East Coast” op­er­a­tions, he said today.

That an­nounce­ment “came out of the blue,” Laz­ar said Thursday.

If Mondelez does leave Philly, Laz­ar said, sev­er­al hun­dred good-pay­ing jobs will leave with it.

“That would be an out­rageous thing,” Stack said.

Es­pe­cially, Brendan Boyle said, since what he called “an icon­ic build­ing in the North­east” is a prof­it­able build­ing for Mondelez.

He said Mondelez is not in bad fin­an­cial shape.

“They’re ac­tu­ally do­ing quite well,” he said.

There’s no reas­on, he said, for hun­dreds of “good, fam­ily-sus­tain­ing jobs” to leave Phil­adelphia, Brendan Boyle said.

Work­ers earn $24 to $26 hourly at the plant that for years was Nabisco and once the North­east’s tallest build­ing. “These are good, middle-class jobs with good be­ne­fits and good health plans,” Laz­ar said.

“This com­pany is rooted in this area,” Stack said. “It is con­nec­ted to the ba­sic sta­bil­ity of this area.”

Gen­er­a­tions of fam­il­ies worked at the plant, Laz­ar said. “People came here and stayed 40 years,” said Laz­ar, who put in 30 years be­fore be­com­ing pres­id­ent of Loc­al 492 of the Bakery, To­bacco and Con­fec­tion­ery Work­ers’ Uni­on.

“Two hun­dred and sev­enty-sev­en of the loc­al’s mem­bers cur­rently are work­ing on the Boulevard,” Laz­ar said. About 100 were laid off in the past year or so.

Laz­ar plans to meet with mem­bers of the Ver­ree Road-based loc­al on Sunday. He ex­pects the in­ter­na­tion­al uni­on, which ne­go­ti­ated a con­tract for six Amer­ic­an Mondelez baker­ies, will be talk­ing to the com­pany. ••

You can reach at jloftus@bsmphilly.com.

comments powered by Disqus